Some of the pictures in Vincent’s sketchbook, like the one featured here, were uncolored and Donna wondered if her brother had eventually intended to color them in. When Donna sees this picture, she recalls the night she, Frank, and Vincent played music together, and calls it one of the best times of her life–a night she never wanted to end. Enjoy the following excerpt.

 

“What do you play, Frank?” Vincent said, like he assumed that he must play some instrument.

 “I just play guitar,” Frank said as though he was saying that he played the kazoo. “But I haven’t played in a while.” Vincent didn’t respond. He just got up and handed the guitar he was playing to Frank and grabbed a bass guitar from his closet.

“Thanks, Vince,” Frank said. “Nice one. A Martin.”

“What about something for me?” I said, half-jokingly. 

“Wait a minute,” Vincent said, getting up from his seat. He was back in a minute with a penny whistle, which I hadn’t played in years.

Together, we all fumbled around for about an hour or so, playing mostly early Beatle songs. I ended up being the singer in our little band and only playing the penny whistle once in a while. Initially, Frank was messing up left and right, but as the night went on (and so did the drinking), he got better, and when he didn’t know a chord, he’d look at Vincent, who would mouth the name of the chord back to him. In fact, we all got better, and I thought we sounded really good, or at least we did inside my own drunken head. 

We had so much fun making music that three hours just danced by, and when Vincent went to use the bathroom, Frank told me we should head home soon because it was getting late. The thought of ending this wonderful night and leaving Vincent alone made me go from jubilant to sad in an instant. I never didn’t want anything to end as much as I didn’t want that night to end. But I knew Frank was right, and when Vincent came back from the bathroom, I told him we had to go soon.

“Let’s just play one more,” Vincent said, sitting down.

“You name it,” I said to him. 

“‘Animal Farm’ by the Kinks,” Vincent said. I wanted to jump up and down at the suggestion because I always loved that song, and I knew all the words. Frank said he wasn’t sure if he knew it, so I told Vincent to play the record for him in hopes that he’d recognize it.

“Oh, I know this song,” Frank said, after it played for about a minute.

Vincent started the song again, and we played with the record, and then we played it on our own and one more time with the record. The last time we played the song, it was perfect, and it swallowed us up in one magical gulp and blurred any lines that lived between us. It didn’t matter that Frank would soon be a lawyer and that Vincent made cookies in a factory or that Frank and I would be married and living in a nice house while Vincent stayed alone in his same run-down apartment. It didn’t matter who we were or where we were going because the music leveled everything out, made us indivisible, and let us float gloriously above this world. 

When the song ended, Vincent walked us out to our car where we hugged goodbye and drove away while I waved a limp, sad wave. I felt tears growing inside of me, which I held back, but as soon as Vincent was out of sight, they came pouring out, fast and furious as if angry at me for trying to hold them back. Frank looked over and asked what was wrong.

“I just get sad sometimes when I see Vincent all alone,” I said through my sniffling. “I wish he had somebody. I try to think of girlfriends to introduce him to, but he’s just so different than anyone I know, and I just get sad is all. I…” I began fully crying with sobs and all. I wanted to blame my tears on the alcohol but knew that they were a long time coming.

Frank pulled over, stopped the car, and reached over to hug me, which consoled me but made me cry more. He continued to hold me and eventually my crying reduced to a whimper. He didn’t try to make it better or tell me to stop crying or tell me that I shouldn’t be sad because maybe Vincent was happy that way. He just held me and my sadness and my pain. He just let it be, and in that sorrowful moment, my love for him grew huge, like a mountain that lived high among the clouds.

 

This post is part of my latest blog series on the artwork that inspired the family saga, The Bird that Sang in Color. The art featured in these posts comes from a sketchbook that belonged to my brother, Vincent, which I discovered shortly after his death. It had pictures he’d drawn of himself throughout various phases of his life. This pictorial autobiography caused me to wonder what pictures I’d have of myself by the end of my life, which motivated me to live more fully. In writing this novel, I was able to share this powerful realization with the world. This novel is the third book in the Greco Family Trilogy. Each one of these family trilogy books is told from a different family member’s point of view. This one is told from the perspective of the Greco family matriarch, Donna.   

Grace Mattioli is the author of the Greco Family Trilogy books, including Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, Discovery of an Eagle, and The Bird that Sang in Color. These books are available from all major online book sellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.